Most parents are used to taking their children to the pediatrician and the dentist for regularly scheduled checkups. However, many parents don’t realize that their children should also have regular eye exams – even if the child doesn’t wear glasses. Why?
Eye problems are very common in children. The American Optometry Association (AOA) estimates that 1 in 4 children has a vision-related condition. Left untreated, these conditions can have a serious effect on a child’s learning, development, athletic performance, and overall health:
Poor vision directly affects learning. When a child has difficulty focusing or cannot see things clearly, their learning and attention can suffer. In fact, the AOA estimates that 60% of learning disabilities are associated with vision problems. As an aside, that is why when a child is suspected of having ADD/ADHD or another learning disorder, they should be referred for a comprehensive eye exam.
Eye problems can affect development. Not only can poor vision affect learning and behavior, but some eye conditions can affect a child’s physical and neurological development as well. For example, eye muscle imbalances (called strabismus, or commonly “crossed eyes” or “wandering eyes”) can lead to amblyopia (“lazy eye”) in which the brain suppresses vision from one eye to avoid seeing double. This can lead to permanent vision loss if untreated.
Eye problems can also affect physical abilities and athletic performance. Vision irregularities or eye muscle imbalances can affect depth perception, leading to “clumsiness,” tripping, and poor hand-eye coordination.
While very rare, children sometime experience more serious eye conditions such as cancerous tumors (retinoblastoma, medulloepithelioma), congenital glaucoma, retinal disease, etc. that can cause blindness and even be life-threatening.
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